complained a small group of people in one church I know well. They were upset because the congregation had moved from being the complacent, anti-growth "mom 'n pop" organization run by a few to a church staffed by a fulltime extension minister who had been chosen because of the congregation's need to grow--in order to survive.
"I want my country back" is the rallying cry of those who find it difficult to adapt to the changes being proposed by a new, more progressive government. There are similarities between our nation's situation and the situation of congregations who are being urged by a new leader to grow beyond the old ways of doing things, to relinquish old, less-healthy patterns, and adopt new ones.
In both situations, a small group of people threatens to hijack the democratic process by introducing innuendo, rumor, falsehood and threats. In the church, parking lot complainers diss the minister's sermons, his/her chance remarks, his/her failure to be all things to all people, and threaten to withdraw financial support. Their complaints and even lies are given credence by their loud voices even though the threat of cutting off the money feels like blackmail.
In the nation, "tea baggers", "birthers" and others who have been convinced by the noisy rhetoric spouted by Fox News are feeding on innuendo, rumor, falsehood and threats. So-called "conservatives" (a term whose meaning has been distorted by the current political scene, just as has "liberal") hang around town hall meetings with their scared-to-death adherents, whipping up fear and resentment with lies and rumors.
In the church, the minister often leaves under a cloud, having done nothing wrong except to introduce change. The church suffers badly because it is divided by anger; loyal members look for another, less angry church to attend; dissenters, having "won", inherit a church that often spirals down into chaos and bankruptcy. And the minister's career has suffered a setback because a negotiated settlement doesn't look too great in a candidacy packet.
In the nation, a president elected by popular vote who promised to bring change in positive ways is subjected to hateful rhetoric, suspicious "birthers" who want to get rid of him, town hall complainers who scream and heckle and disrupt the democratic process. The nation suffers badly because it is divided by anger; that anger erupts in violence, death threats, and big bucks changing hands to keep the ugliness going---a blow at the integrity of the United States of America.
Is the stubborn church at war with itself the true picture of religious faith? Is the nation at war with itself the true picture of democracy? There is an inherent right to dissent, both in our churches and in our nation. The danger comes when that dissent is fueled by lies and paranoia.